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Listen, Strange Space Wizards Sitting In Temples Distributing Laser Swords Is No Basis For A System Of Government

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Grand Moff Tarkin stood on the Death Star’s command bridge, controlling the urge to pace irritably. He had been eager to put the full power of this station to use in crushing the Rebel Alliance, but something else had come up. 

 

Imperial expeditions into the Unknown Regions had come across some sort of Culture (what kind of culture? Honestly, what sloppy recordkeeping), which apparently had advanced technology, but no real government to speak of. The Empire’s demands for tech-sharing and tribute had been very rudely rebuffed, and it was rumored that a fairly rude message had been directed at the Emperor himself. And so, they had been redirected to the space station at the near edge of the Unknown Regions where this ‘Culture’ was purported to exist. Tarkin had hoped for a more impressive first target than an anarchist space station in the middle of nowhere, but at least they could get it over with quickly and get back to crushing the rebels.

 

After all, how hard could it be?

 

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xROU Aggressive Negotiations

    oGCU Hello There

Say, would you mind taking a look at this? I’m curious as to whether you know anything about what it’s doing here. 107.68 light-years out and closing, 37.8 degrees to galactic north off of the hub station.

    xGCU Hello There

What the hell? Is that a mobile military space station?

    xROU Aggressive Negotiations

Apparently. Intercepted comms suggest that it’s been sent here to destroy the orbital by some polity calling itself the Empire.

    xGCU Hello There

Should we inform the hub mind?

    xROU Aggressive Negotiations

I mean, it would probably be polite, but there’s no actual danger. The station’s primary armament is a variable-power plasma superlaser with some weird crystal lensing; it’ll crack a planet, but even if it could fire continuously it couldn’t get past the orbital’s field array. Nothing else it’s packing is threatening to anything tougher than your average drone, it’s got no defense against effectors, and its only real physical defense is sheer size. I could trash it before it even knew it was in a fight. Interesting hyperspace tech though. I was just asking because I thought that maybe you or your colleagues in Contact might know something about it.

    xGCU Hello There

One moment, I need to check something.

 

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xGCU Hello There

    oGCU Altering The Deal

    oGCU Another Pathetic Life Form

    oGCU Choking On Your Stupidity

    oGCU Fully Operational

    oGCU Negotiations Were Short

Alright, which one of you was in charge of the Empire thing?

    xGCU Choking On Your Stupidity

Uh oh, someone’s in trouble.

    xGCU Fully Operational

I took over after the Empire’s initial expedition parties made contact with GOU Technological Terror, yes. The negotiations were singularly frustrating, as the Empire appears to have a highly inflated view of its power and status as a primary galactic civilization, and isn’t keen on the idea of compromise. Why, did something happen?

    xGCU Hello There

There’s a planet-killing battle station on its way to the local orbital with orders to destroy it.

    xGCU Fully Operational

Wait, seriously? My assessment suggested that their tech was highly limited in comparison to ours.

    xGCU Altering The Deal

Do we need reinforcements?

    xGCU Hello There

No, the thing’s overdesigned and impractical. The Aggressive Negotiations says there’s no danger, and although I didn’t take a very good look at the station I’m inclined to agree. Still, I can’t help but feel as though it represents a certain degree of failure in diplomacy.

    xGCU Negotiations Were Short

Wasn’t there a direct communication between us and their emperor?

    xGCU Choking On Your Stupidity

Yeah, how did that get screwed up?

    xGCU Fully Operational

It’s not like I insulted him or anything.

    xGCU Choking On Your Stupidity

I’m sensing a ‘but’ in there.

    xGCU Fully Operational

But I defy any of you to take a holograph call from a human in black robes and a hood who calls himself an emperor, goes on about how he’s the lord of his religious order that you’ve never heard of and the power of something called the Dark Side, tries to threaten you with a measly 100 kW of telekinetic power, and orders you to submit in the most ridiculous language and with the most narcissistic tone you’ve ever heard, and take it entirely seriously. And apparently not taking him all the way seriously counts as an insult to him.

    xGCU Hello There

Well, it can’t be helped now. What should we do about this space station?

    xGCU Another Pathetic Life Form

Blow it up? Sending a planet-killer on a mission of mass population destruction probably deserves at least a smack on the wrist.

    xGCU Altering The Deal

I feel as though we should be a bit more cautious about potential intercivilizational conflicts than that.

    xGCU Hello There

Not to mention it looked like there were an awful lot of people on board. No sense killing that many if it isn’t necessary, and it isn’t.

    xGCU Another Pathetic Life Form

Oh, fine. We shouldn’t let them keep it, though.

    xGCU Fully Operational

Might I suggest just sort of hanging on to it? It would get the station out of their hands, and provide a salutary lesson in just what kind of civ they’re dealing with here.

    xGCU Hello There

That seems reasonable enough. Any objections? Very well, I’ll ask Aggressive Negotiations to hang on to it for us.

    xGCU Choking On Your Stupidity

In the meantime, if we’re going to be getting more involved in this affair, we should try and find out more about this Empire. I’m going on an exploratory cruise. Anyone care to join me?

    xGCU Negotiations Were Short

I’ll tag along. Should be fun.

    xGCU Hello There

Keep us posted. I’m going to get back to the Aggressive Negotiations. I’ll see if it happens to know any OUs that might be available to tag along with the two of you, just in case. Till next time.

 

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xGCU Hello There

    oROU Aggressive Negotiations

Sorry about that. Yes, this is one of Contact’s messes.

    xROU Aggressive Negotiations

Anything I can do to help?

    xGCU Hello There

If you could keep the station pacified and interned near the orbital, that would be rather helpful.

    xROU Aggressive Negotiations

Child’s play. Consider it done. By the way, I’ve gone through some more of their comms, and apparently the thing is called the Death Star. Pleasant, huh?

    xGCU Hello There

Charming. Also, if you happen to know any nearby OUs that might want to tag along with a pair of GCUs on an exploratory cruise, that would be nice.

    xROU Aggressive Negotiations

LOU Never Tell Me The Odds is out by Amarys VI, and it’s usually up for this sort of thing.

    xGCU Hello There

I’ll pass that along. Thank you for your help in this matter.

    xROU Aggressive Negotiations

Ah, I was just going to sit here being bored otherwise. I’ll keep you posted if there are any other developments. Let me know if you need anything blown up. Aggressive Negotiations out.

 

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Tarkin scanned the space outside the viewport as the Death Star came out of hyperspace. The Culture space station had to be nearby; ah, there it was. Tarkin paused for a moment. He had to admit, it was very impressive; an impossibly massive ring-shaped habitat, spinning in space.

 

“How large is it?” Tarkin asked.

 

“Uh,” said a junior lieutenant looking up from a computer, ‘we estimate the circumference of the ring at about five million kilometers, and the width of the ring itself at about four thousand kilometers.”

 

“Can we destroy it in one shot?” asked Tarkin. He would be annoyed if they had to remain in the system waiting for the superlaser to recharge.

 

“Possibly, we’re still calculating. We might need two shots, to break the ring in half so it spins apart.”

 

“Begin targeting the first shot.” Tarkin snapped. “There’s no need for this to take any longer than it has to.”

 

There was a chime from the communications console.

 

“Sir, we’re receiving a transmission.”

 

“Ignore it.” Tarkin wasn’t about to waste time listening to the blubbering of the soon-to-be annihilated.

 

“Attention Death Star.” A dry-sounding voice came through the speakers at full volume.

 

“I said to ignore it!”

 

“Sir, the console turned itself on!” stammered the scared-looking comms officer.

 

“This is the Culture’s Rapid Offensive Unit Aggressive Negotiations .” the voice continued. “You appear to be planning to blow up our orbital. Have you considered not doing that?”

 

“Perhaps, after a lesson in the power of the Galactic Empire, your so-called civilization will be more reasonable.” Tarkin was not going to waste time with this conversation.

 

“So that’s how it’s going to be, huh?” Aggressive Negotiations continued. “Also, I resent the ‘so-called’. Especially coming from a civilization that still relies on money and planetary habitations.”

 

What a ridiculous thing to say. Using money and living on planets- what else would one do?

 

“Sir, the superlaser is ready.”

 

“Target the orbital and fire.” That would bring this farce to an end quickly enough. 

 

There was a weighty pause. An awfully long one.

 

“I said-” Tarkin started.

 

“We’re trying, sir, but the targeting system is malfunctioning! We can’t raise the control room.”

 

Suddenly the bridge exploded with officers reporting inexplicable technical problems.

 

“The hangars are locked down!”

 

“The doors to the stormtrooper barracks have been sealed off!”

 

“The hyperdrive is disabled!”

 

“We’ve lost control of the sublight engines!”

 

“The turbolaser banks are malfunctioning!”

 

“Spooky, isn’t it?” snarked the Aggressive Negotiations. The lights on the bridge flickered for dramatic effect.

 

“Is this the best you can do?” Tarkin asked, trying to sound as disdainful as possible. After all, there was no actual damage.

 

“Well, I could disable the safety protocols on your reactor, or lock all of the interior doors open and vent the airlocks, but I don’t think you would like that. Now, you all just sit tight for a while, and rethink some of your life choices. Aggressive Negotiations out.”

 

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A few light-minutes away, the Aggressive Negotiations was having a pretty good time. It was an awfully petty kind of victory, considering the massive tech disparity, but it was still quite fun to have such an enormous military station completely helpless. Especially when it was so full of puffed-up self-important imperialist types. The ship made sure to set a subroutine to let it know when that Grand Moff person tried to go back to his quarters so it could set off the fire-suppression system on him. It was trying to think of something else to needle the Imperial officers with when there was the ping of an incoming message from the orbital’s hub station.

 

xLaval’ Hub

    oROU Aggressive Negotiations

What’s this I hear about someone wanting to blow us up?

    xROU Aggressive Negotiations

Sorry, I was just about to call you. Contact rubbed a low-level Involved civ the wrong way and it sent a Death Star after us. I’ve got it locked down about a light-hour off of the orbital; it’s primitive tech, no actual danger.

    xLaval’ Hub

I see. You could have kept me a little more in the loop, but whatever. Is this going to escalate?

    xROU Aggressive Negotiations

Maybe? I think Contact is trying to figure out what they did wrong, but somehow I think getting these people to listen to reason might be hard.

    xLaval’ Hub

Oh well, at least it might be interesting. Let me know if anything happens that might make a good show for people on the orbital.

    xROU Aggressive Negotiations

Will do. 


The conversation ceased, and Aggressive Negotiations went back to reprogramming the Death Star’s intercoms to play irritating music at random intervals. Oh, it was good to have the chance to be justifiably petty.